Honduras’s first elected female president suffered a rebellion within her leftist Libre party on Friday as allies threatened her ability to pass laws and appoint officials even before she takes office this week.
Xiomara Castro swept into power on a popular vote in November, promising to restore democracy and eradicate the endemic corruption and organised crime that has driven her compatriots en masse to flee to the US order. But plans to overhaul the system has been thwarted even before Thursday’s inauguration.
The split may also complicate matters for the Joe Biden administration, which has increasingly seen Castro as an ally in addressing the root causes of Central American migration. Vice President Kamala Harris plans to attend the ceremony.
Castro’s party divided after she tried to fulfil a campaign promise and install a member of an allied centrist party as congressional speaker. A group of 22 Libre lawmakers opposed the move. With the help of other major parties, they instead swore in Jorge Cálix, a prominent Libre lawmaker, as the speaker. His swearing-in occurred amid scuffles within the congressional chamber and impassioned protests from Castro’s loyalists, who stormed into the building from the street.
Castro is calling the rebellion “treason”. Her husband Former President Manuel Zelaya, is the head of Libre. He responded by expelling the rebels from the party. The expulsion, if it stands, would reduce Libre’s congressional bloc to 38 out of 128 lawmakers, though officials said there was a chance that some would return to the fold.
Political analysts say the division will make it far more difficult for Castro to find enough votes to meet campaign promises, like bringing back international anticorruption investigators, loosening Honduras’s highly restrictive abortion laws and exposing drug trafficking from the highest levels of government and the security forces.
Drug trafficking to America is so rampant in Honduras that the Federal Bureau of Investigation is offering a $100,000 reward for information to hunt down fugitive MS-13 gang leader in Honduras who was indicted in a New York court for trafficking tons of cocaine to the United States.
Yulan Andony Archaga Carías, 39, was charged with racketeering conspiracy, conspiring to import cocaine, and possessing and conspiring to possess machine guns.
Harris has been appointed by Biden to oversee diplomatic efforts in the Northern Triangle to address immigration, but it's not clear what policy-related efforts she'll undertake while in Honduras.
In her most recent public efforts in the diplomatic role, Harris announced a new slate of commitments from the private sector to invest in the Northern Triangle, as part of its attempts to address the root causes of migration from the region by promoting economic opportunity.
The Honduras visit will mark Harris's second visit to the Northern Triangle since taking office. In June, she visited Guatemala and Mexico.